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Managing your copyright

It is sometimes possible to negotiate with publishers at the time that your paper is accepted for publication, to retain some or all of your rights. At the very least, you should

(a) keep a copy of the agreement that you sign; and
(b) request as part of the agreement the right to archive a copy of your work in USQ ePrints.

The next section outlines some of the ways that you can do this.

1. Check the publisher's policy on self-archiving

While journal publishers usually ask authors to assign copyright to them, many now also allow self-archiving of postprints in an institutional repository. Other publishers may grant permission if a request is made to them. It will be useful for you to check the publisher's policy on self-archiving before submitting your article for peer review. The knowledge could influence your decision about how to manage your copyright.

The information may be on the journal's website. Look for links called "Notes to contributors" or "Information for authors". The information could be in the publishing contract. Read it carefully before signing. Here is an example of what to look for:

The Author(s) shall have the following rights

The right to post and update the Article on e-print servers as long as files prepared and/or formatted by APS or its vendors are not used for that purpose. Any such posting made or updated after acceptance of the Article for publication shall include a link to the online abstract in the APS journal or to the entry page of the journal. (excerpt from the American Physical Society's transfer of Copyright form)

The RoMEO web site provides a list of publisher policies:

  • Publishers in GREEN support self-archiving of post-refereed postprints version.
  • Publishers in YELLOW or BLUE may support some archiving rights, and changes or exceptions can often be negotiated by authors. A link to the relevant publisher information is generally provided, and should be checked.

If the publisher allows authors to retain the right to self-archive or if assignment of copyright is not required, there is no need to go on to the next step: you can immediately deposit a copy of your paper in USQ ePrints. If unsure, then contact the USQ University Lawyer or the USQ ePrints Coordinator for advice and assistance.

As part of the post-deposit checking process, USQ ePrints staff will check the copyright policy of the publisher and will write on your behalf to the publisher for permission if required, or if the policy is unclear.

2. Amend the publication agreement or deposit the preprint version.

If the publisher does not allow authors to self-archive postprints, you could adopt one of the following strategies:

2a Best strategy: Amend the publishing agreement to reserve some rights

If the existing contract does not specifically grant authors the right to self-archive a copy of the postprint (post-refereed version of the work) it may be possible to cross out the relevant section of the existing agreement and insert a statement about the rights you wish to retain. For example:

The author transfers to {Publisher} the exclusive rights comprised in the copyright of the work, except that the author retains the following:

  • The right to self-archive a copy of the work in the author's institutional eprint repository.
  • The right to make copies of all or part of the work for the author's use in teaching.
  • The right to use, after publication, all or part of this material in works by the author in print or electronic format.

Contact the publisher or journal editor to let them know what you are doing and why.

2b. Alternative strategy: Retain your copyright and grant the publisher a "licence to publish"

You can choose to retain ownership of the copyright and grant the publisher an exclusive licence for the first formal publication of the work (in print, digital, or some other form).

Researchers who are employed by the US Government routinely use this strategy. They cannot assign copyright to publishers because the Government retains the copyright. It is worth noting that the publishers continue to publish articles authored by these researchers.

In addition to this you could grant the publisher a non-exclusive licence for at least the following purposes:

  • Subsequent republication of the work
  • Reproduction in course packs and in e-Reserve
  • Reformatted publication (e.g., works transferred from print to microform and digital forms).
  • Distribution through document delivery services
  • Public performance and display of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, motion pictures, and other audiovisual works.

By granting non-exclusive rights to the publisher, the author retains the right to do any of these things without needing publisher permission.

Cross out and replace the original exclusive transfer language with text such as the following:

The author grants to the Publisher exclusive first publication rights in the Work, and further grants a non-exclusive licence for other uses of the Work for the duration of its copyright in all languages, throughout the world, in all media.

See in particular, the SPARC addendum.

3. Another alternative: Deposit information only, or self-archive a copy of the pre-submitted version

Some publishers are very protective of what they perceive as their long term interests (including financial interests), and will not allow any flexibility or rights to authors seeking to use institutional repositories.

In this situation there are two main options: (a) USQ ePrints may make metadata (information about the paper) available including information about the location of the published version, and archive but not make accessible, a copy of the postprint; or (b)the author may self-archive the preprint before it is submitted.

Before a paper is submitted to a journal for peer review, the copyright belongs to the author. Therefore, the author is always free to self-archive the preprint at this point in time. In fact, some researchers routinely self-archive their preprints. Physicists have been doing this for many years into their main discipline archive.

There are considerable variations in what publishers will allow authors to do in the time between submission and final publication. For more information about these possibilities, see the CreateChange website. Because it can be difficult to establish what rights are available to authors in that period, USQ ePrints prefers that postprint versions of papers are not deposited until final publication.